Sunday, September 30, 2007

Podcast #120 - Teaching the Declaration of Independence as a Break Up Letter

Hello. Today's podcast describes one of the activities I use in class to teach about the Declaration of Independence. Students often don't really understand the purpose of the document and this activity usually helps. I act as if I have found a note on the floor of my class the day before after school and then I read it to the class. It is a break up letter and at the end the students are stunned to learn that it is from "the American Colonies". I have included the text of the letter that I use below and the podcast has a recording of what happens when I read the letter in class and the discussion that follows. The podcast also has some hints and suggestions if you would like to replicate this activity in your classroom. I'm sure someone out there does something similar but I have not been able to find it anywhere else. I really enjoy this activity and my students have fun with it as well.

If you have any comments or questions please leave a comment on the blog or send me an e-mail at

Text of the letter that I read to my class this year:

I'm not sure how to start this letter but I feel we need to talk. I've been thinking about us a lot lately. Things used to be so great - it was like we were M.F.E.O. I mean everyone said it was perfect. I really thought we would be together forever but then things changed.

I feel like you started to take me for granted. You just started to do whatever you wanted and never even asked me about anything or how I felt.

I've been thinking about this for a while and I don't want to hurt you but I think it is time we broke up. I mean it's just not going to work. I need some time by myself to see what it is like on my own. I'm sorry things didn't work out but I do think YOU are the one to blame. Sorry but "US" is over.

The American Colonies

UPDATED - OCTOBER 30, 2008 - I took video of this activity using the Flip video camera and have added the video to show how the activity works in class.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The War from PBS Airs Tonight, Web Site is Now Active

Tonight the PBS special "The War" aired it's first segment on public television stations across the country. The web site is also now updated and full of features - including a special section for teachers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Podcast #119 - September 2007 Bits and Bytes -I-Pod Cases, Cam Studio, What I'm Reading, etc.

Hello. Today's podcast consists of my random collection of thoughts on history, education and technology. These are all things I've been thinking about but they don't have enough information to create an entire podcast on the subject. We did a Bits and Bytes in July but did not have one for August. Topics tonight include: i-Pod case, The War by PBS, Constitution Day 2007 Video, ear phones for MP3 players to check out to students, Cam Studio, Edutopia article "Northern Lights", CNN Student News Blog and books I just finished and what I'm reading now. Please listen to the podcast and then use the links in the show notes below to learn more.

Podcast #119 Show Notes:

- i-Pod Speaker/Case for outdoor use

- The War - WWII Documentary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on PBS - September 23, 2007

- CamStudio - free screen casting application

- Edutopia Article on Chugach School District - No Timeline For Learning

- CNN Student News Blog

- George Washington, Spymaster by Thomas B Allen

- Land of Lincoln - Adventures in Abe's America by Andrew Ferguson

Monday, September 17, 2007

2007 Constitution Day Video

Hello and Happy Constitution Day! Last night I put the finishing touches on our video for Constitution Day. For the past two years I have created a video that is shown during our student news broadcast. Last year I had segments of the preamble read by various students and teachers. This year I did a short commentary on how the Constitution impacts the lives of our students at South Valley Jr. High - examples include i-Pods, the Daily Show, a local Civil War battle, etc. I created it with PhotoStory 3 and included music from Soundzabound.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Presentation Notes from History Comes Alive - National World War I Museum in Kansas City

Hello. On Saturday, September 15th I am giving a presentation at the "History Comes Alive Workshop" at the Liberty Memorial - National World War I Museum in Kansas City. Teachers from the Kansas City area will be learning about the resources available through this incredible museum and I will be doing a presentation on using technology in the social studies classroom with some additional suggestions for teaching WWI. Kansas City Time Warner Cable, the History Channel and the Liberty Memorial World War I Museum are sponsoring the event.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Podcast #118 - Ideas for Constitution Day - September 17th

Hello. On September 17th schools across America will celebrate the birthday of our Constitution. According to law, each school in the country that receives federal money of any kind, is required to do some type of activity related to the Constitution.

Last year we created a short video with students and staff reading portions of the preamble. We show it on our building cable channel during student announcements on Constitution Day. We posted it on Teacher Tube and in the past year it has been viewed over 12,000 times. This year I am working on video with a slightly different theme and hope to have it completed for viewing on Monday.

Looking for ideas or lesson plans to use at your school on September 17th? In this podcast I share my favorite resources for Constitution Day ideas. We would love to hear about your plans for Constitution Day - leave a comment on this blog entry and include a Constitution link of your own.

Direct link to Podcast #118 - Ideas for Constitution Day - September 17th - MP3 Format - 11:27 Minutes

Podcast #118 Show Notes:

- National Constitution Center - Constitution Day Lesson Plan and Resource Database

- Interactive Constitution Online - National Constitution Center

- National Archives Constitution Day - Teaching with Resources

- National Archives Constitution Game - 12 paper clips and a die

- National Archives Constitution Questions / Answers and Quick Facts

- Interactive Christy painting from National Endowment for the Humanities

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sandwich Archaeology Video from Animoto

Here is a quick video with pictures of the students doing their sandwich archaeology project a couple of weeks ago. The video is 30 seconds long and took about 5 minutes to create. It was created using a web site named Animoto. Super easy, fun, energetic video creation application - check it out. Thanks to Wes Fryer of the Speed of Creativity blog.

Lest We Forget....

I was in a classroom that day, as I'm sure many of the teachers reading this blog were, teaching my students about American history when a teacher next door during a passing period said that a plane had hit a building in New York. I will never forget the events of that day. It is not often in one's lifetime that your entire world has changed so dramatically as a result of a global event from the time you woke up in the morning until you go to bed that evening.

I pray for the men and women who lost their lives that day, acted as heroes that day and those that fight to protect our freedoms today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

World War I Teacher Workshop in Kansas City

If you teach World War I history and are within driving distance to Kansas City please check out an educator workshop taking place at the Liberty Memorial - National World War I Museum in Kansas City on Saturday, September 15th. This event is being sponsored by the Liberty Memorial, Time Warner Cable and the History Channel. There will be presentations on using how teachers can use the museum's resources and tours of the amazing facilities. I am honored to have been asked to give a presentation on using technology in the social studies classroom.

For more information please check out the Time Warner Kansas City page for "Teacher Workshops" and select "History Comes Alive" There is a $20 registration fee that includes lunch, breaks and a tour of the museum. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Podcast #117 - First Weeks of School - Peanut Butter and Jelly Archaeology, Student Learning Styles Quiz and More

Hello. In today's podcast I will discuss some of the things we do at the start of the year in class. Over the years we have done various things to create a tone and set expectations for the upcoming year. We don't jump right in to the first unit, but rather do a variety of activites to set up the year.

In the podcast I will explain how we complete a student information sheet, take a learning styles inventory quiz and perform an archaeological dig on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Direct link to Podcast #117 - First Weeks of School - Peanut Butter and Jelly Archeology, Student Learning Styles Quiz and More - MP3 Format - 21:40 Minutes

Podcast #117 Show Notes:

Lost on the Moon Activity - builds team work in groups with students

Student Learning Styles Inventory with suggestions on learning styles study skills

Peanut Butter and Jelly Archaeology instructions from National Paek Service

Monday, September 03, 2007

Podcast #116 - Invitation to Join Me as the 2007/2008 Missouri Teacher of the Year

Hello. Last Thursday I was extremely honored and humbled to be notified that I have been selected to be the Missouri Teacher of the Year for 2007/2008. Last spring I learned that I would represent Liberty Public Schools in the state competition as the district teacher of the year and I had an interview last week in Jefferson City as a state finalist. I don't think the huge responsibility of representing all the great teachers in Missouri has truly hit me yet and I'll learn much more about my responsibilities in the weeks to come but I'm looking forward to an exciting year. It will require me to miss some days in the classroom with speaking engagements but it will give me an opportunity to share some of the great things happening in classrooms throughout Missouri.

One thing I'm very excited about is the opportunity to discuss the potential of the web 2.0 classroom with a broader audience. Speaking at a technology conference is largely preaching to the choir but many of my presentations as teacher of the year will have a more mainstream audience and I can't wait to spread the potential of blogs, podcasts, wikis, etc. to a variety of people.

I encourage you to join me on this journey. I know that I will ask you for advice and ideas along the way. There will probably be an additional blog that will serve as a scrapbook of various events but I will continue to put all content on this blog in additional to any additional sites.

Podcast #116 Show Notes: